Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 69.73
Liaison Lindsey Lyons
Submission Date June 13, 2011
Executive Letter Download

STARS v1.0

Dickinson College
IN-2: Innovation 2

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.00 / 1.00 Daniel Webster
Sustainability Projects Coordinator
Center for Sustainability Education
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:

The Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring (ALLARM) is a project of the Environmental Studies Department at Dickinson College. Since its founding in 1986, ALLARM has become a nationally recognized technical and programmatic support center for community organizations interested in watershed assessment, protection, and restoration. Through the work of professional and student staff, ALLARM offers comprehensive services to enable groups to use critical scientific tools to enhance environmental quality and fully participate in community decision-making.

For 25 years, ALLARM has successfully trained and engaged volunteer monitors to investigate and answer questions about the myriad of issues facing our state’s water quality. ALLARM’s philosophy is centered around bottom-up engagement, capacity building – by involving Pennsylvania communities in every step of the scientific process, including defining the research agenda, designing the study, collecting and analyzing data, managing and interpreting the data, and bringing the data to the public for action. When faced with the severity of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale combined with budget shortages at the Department of Environmental Protection, ALLARM developed a Marcellus Shale volunteer monitoring protocol to insure that Pennsylvania streams are aptly monitored and protected.

The recent growth of activity to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale gas play is taking place in backyards, fields, and beneath homes in our communities. Involving volunteer monitors in documenting impacts from gas extraction is a cost-effective way to collect data over a wide geographic area. Residents can easily gain access to private property in their neighborhoods and can sample frequently.

In response to this need, ALLARM spent the first seven months in 2010 developing a scientifically robust protocol that allows residents to monitor small streams on a weekly basis for the purpose of early detection and prevention of stream contamination from Marcellus Shale gas extraction. The protocol calls for a period of baseline monitoring prior to gas well development, followed by “watchdog” monitoring during the gas extraction activities. On a weekly basis, volunteers collect flow, visual assessment, total dissolved solids (TDS), and conductivity data. Volunteers also send low flow and high flow samples to ALLARM for quality assurance and quality control (to verify they are using their equipment correctly). Volunteers are encouraged to send low and high flow samples to certified laboratories for baseline analysis for signature chemicals, barium and strontium. If volunteers have elevated TDS and conductivity readings they will send samples to a certified lab for barium and strontium analysis to determine if flowback water is the source of elevated levels. If those signature chemicals are also elevated, the event is reportable. The development of the protocol has involved extensive laboratory work and field testing. The manual ALLARM developed, entitled Marcellus Shale Gas Extraction: A study design and protocol for volunteer monitoring, is available to the public.


A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise:
The website URL where information about the innovation is available:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.